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Native American Land Management

Native American Land Management

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Native American Land Management

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  1. Native American Land Management

  2. EuroAmerican Views of Indians • The landscape that Europeans discovered was “natural” and “pristine”. • Native Americans did not play a role in shaping or managing vegetation. • Late 1800’s - John Muir: “Indians walk softly and hurt the landscape hardly more than birds or squirrels.” • ‘Ecological Indian’ 1830 George Catlin “River Bluffs, 1,320 Miles above St. Louis” National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

  3. One exception to this view… • John Wesley Powell • Lived and studied Utes. • 1879: Instrumental in establishing the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology.

  4. Recent View of Native Americans • Native Americans did not have the population numbers or technological skills to have an impact on the landscape. • Clar 1959: “It would be difficult to find a reason why the Indians should care one way or another if the forest burned. It is quite something else again to contend that the Indians used fire systematically to ‘improve’ the forest. Improve it for what purpose?”

  5. US Land Management Philosophy • 1870’s Conservation era • Forest reserves, National Parks established - kept Indians out • Ex. 1893 Grand Canyon Forest Reserve • Havasupi “criminalized” for maintaining cultural land use practices • 1963 Leopold Report and 1964 Wilderness Act • "As a primary goal, we would recommend that the biotic associations within each park be maintained, or where necessary recreated, as nearly as possible in the condition that prevailed when the area was first visited by the white man. A national park should represent a vignette of primitive America." • Fire accepted as a natural part of the ecosystem. • “wilderness… affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticed." • Where does Indian burning fit in??

  6. “Continuum of interactions” • Native Americans occupied North America for 7000-11,000 yrs. • Precolumbian population = 3.8 million (Vale 2000). • In California, estimated population = 310,000-350,000 • one of highest densities in North America. • Not just hunter-gatherer or agriculturalist. Chumash settlements in coastal California in 1769 at the time of European colonization (Keeley 2002)

  7. Cultural Niche Hypothesis • Henry Lewis 1973, Blackburn & Anderson 1993, Laland et al 2001 • Native Americans managed landscape to create or enlarge their niche. • Agents of Environmental Change • Dispersal agents • Intentionally and unintentionally spreading species. • Habitat modifiers • Expanded habitat in time and space. • Genetic modifiers • Selective harvesting and transplanting favored specific genotypes.

  8. How do we know? • Lewis 1973 • Reconstruct relationships between tribes and environment. • Evaluated food subsistence patterns. • Found high proportion of diet from grasses and early successional species. • Concluded agriculture not necessary if supplement diet of acorns, fish, game. • Evidence of extensive ecotones • Vs. monoculture from high severity fire or lack of fire. • Maintained grasslands, prairies, chaparral with fire. • Native Americans were the "superior edge species" (Odum 1971)

  9. Management Techniques • Burning • Considered most important tool. Applying fire to particular vegetation under specified environmental conditions such as seasonality and fire return interval. • Pruning • Removing dead and living parts of plants to enhance growth, form and fruit/seed production. • Selective harvesting • Harvesting in a discriminate repetitive way that leads to trait selection, like enlargement of favored plant part, reduction of seed reproduction. • Tilling • Removing soil during the harvest of underground perennial plant organs (roots, rhizomes, bulbs), often followed by dividing these plants and leaving in the soil.

  10. Management Techniques • Sowing • Broadcasting seeds onto an area that has often been burned. • Weeding • Enhance growth of favored species. • Transplanting • Irrigating • Water diversion and artificial channels. • Ex. Hohokam in Southern California

  11. Burning for Acorns • Black oak acorns extremely important in the diet • 200 pounds collected annually by each adult near Quincy, CA • Reasons for burning • Protect resource • Clear the understory that could carry fire into oak canopy • Kill pests and pathogens (filbert worms, filbert weevils) • Remove encroaching conifers that could shade out oaks • White fir, Douglas fir encroachment • Facilitate gathering and acorn visibility • Expand potential distribution of oaks California black oak (Quercus kelloggii)

  12. Burning and Broadcasting Seeds • Char/smoke stimulated species • Clarkia • Mule ears (Wyethia spp.) • Popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys spp.) • Tobacco (Nicotiana spp). Chia (Salvia columbariae)

  13. Burning for Fruit and Seeds • Increase seed production of grasses, annuals • Increase diversity of food species • In chaparral, fire resprouters are most important fruit species. • Manzanita, toyon, chaparral cherry. Digging stick with blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) corms.

  14. Burning for Wildlife • Attract game to recently burned areas, edges • Deer, rabbits, antelope, quail, doves • Young, tender plants - water, sugars, nitrogen • More animals, better quality • Herding • Deer, buffalo, rabbits, antelopes • Drive animals into enclosures, off cliffs, corridors • Predator visibility • Prey visibility

  15. Burning for Baskets • Epicormic branches or adventitious shoots • Long, straight, flexible, few blemishes, not forked • Maidu • sprouting bases of big leaf maple • Western Mono • sprouts of Black oaks • Miwok • Redbud and Hazel Sumac (Rhus spp.), willow (Salix spp.), deer brush (Ceanothus integerrimus), and redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

  16. Burning for Wildfire Protection • Reduce fuel load. • Break up fuel continuity. • Reduce fire severity to spare resources. “In the spring, the old squaws began to look about for the little dry spots of headland and sunny valley, and as fast as the dry spots appeared, they would be burned. In this way, Fire was always the servant, never the master.” (Joaquin Miller)

  17. Burning for Type Conversion • Convert chaparral to grass • Why? • Attract game • Increase species diversity and seed production • Increase water supply

  18. Evidence of Native American Burning Three theories… • Remnant chaparral patches (not correlated to aspect, soil type, elevation, Cooper 1922, Wells 1962). • Evidence of shrub reestablishment in after burning, grazing removed • CA grasslands occupy 25% of state, much of which are exotic grasses.

  19. Native American Fire Regimes • Frequency • Difficult to decipher • Fire scars, charcoal records don’t indicate if ignition source was NA or lightning. • In areas with low lightning frequency, coincided with high pop densities (Keeley) • Historical accounts • Coast redwoods burned annually to reduce competition for basket plants • Burn "prairies" every 2-3 years to improve browse for game species, seeds • Other areas only burned once every 50 yrs • Fire frequency changes between NA and current times • Larger ecological impact in Sierra Mixed Conifer than Coast redwood • Why?

  20. Fire Regimes • Season • Typically “When grass was dry" or "after seeds gathered" (Blackwell and Anderson) • Take advantage of successional stages (no need to seed) (Lewis 1973) • Fall burns • Resprouting perennial grasses and bulbs in fall, followed by annuals, legumes, forbs in winter, spring, early summer • Summer burns • Kill resprouts and prevent encroachment • Spring burns • Favor resprouts and get straight shoots for baskets (Biswell 1967) • How extensively did they burn in late summer/fall? • Difficult to know because coincides with natural fire season • NA extended natural season in chaparral, increased frequency in oak woodlands and forests.

  21. Fire Regimes • Intensity • Lower intensity in most areas because of frequent burning and lower fuel loads. • Size • Pollen record, historical accounts show more open landscape (grass and shrublands) • Fire use objective not always compatible with control (Krech, Ecological Indian) • Herding buffalo on plains • Driving enemies away • Signal fires

  22. Native American Fire Today • 1975 Indian Self Determination & Educational Assistance Act • Gave tribes more control over natural resources. • Some tribes “compact” with federal government agencies (BIA, USFS). • Others have tribal hotshot or fire crews. • Must follow federal regulations even if sovereign nation.

  23. Fire suppression effects on NA • Changed native fire use • Vegetation growth eliminates culturally valuable species, makes more areas unusable • Lose cultural connection to land because no longer identifiable • Ex. Yurok, Klamath Region • Prescribed fires • Problematic: wrong time of year, inaccessible areas for gathering Rodeo-Chediski Fire, 470,000 acres Fort Apache Reservation

  24. The other side of fire suppression • 70% of Wildland Firefighters are Native American. Chief Mountain Hotshots - Blackfeet Nation

  25. Restoring Fire to the Landscape • Where do we restore to? • 11,000 yrs of possibility • Is pre-European settlement goal valid? • Fuel loads • Climate change • Human population size and distribution. • Can we incorporate NA practices? • If so, which ones?

  26. Final Important Points • History is extremely complex to decipher • Native Americans as a single group • Need to look at tribal differences • Region they occupied • Vegetation type(s) • Food availability • Customs and traditions • Relationship with neighboring tribes